Sergeant Duckett’s Hat

T.J. Duckett

Confederate Veteran T.J. Duckett in 1913

There is a gleam in his eye; the slight smile partially obscured by his goatee reveals a certain smugness under that old weather beaten, bullet-torn hat, a relic of his service in a war fought fifty years before when he was a much younger man. Though the body may have aged, it does not appear to have dimmed his spirit. He sits rather demurely for the cameraman in the heat and dust, proud of his service and proud to be a Confederate veteran.

Of the many photographs taken at the 1913 Anniversary and Reunion, one of the more intriguing is this image of Thomas J. Duckett. Born in 1842 in Lauren District, South Carolina, Thomas J. Duckett went off to war April 14, 1861. The day before he had witnessed a train filled with companies of militia leave the station in Clinton, headed to the capital of Columbia. The sight must have inspired him for he enlisted the very next day and was soon a member of the “Musgrove Volunteers”, which became Company I, 3rd South Carolina Volunteers. Duckett must have done well in the early months of service for he was elected corporal after June 30 and served in that position until February 11, 1863, when he was promoted to fifth sergeant. Within months he was third sergeant of Company I and also a veteran of two years worth of battles and campaigns, from the bitter Seven Days through Gettysburg.  Sgt. Duckett had served through all of them until that September when he was seriously injured in the Battle of Chickamauga; so seriously that his survival was in doubt.  Yet, he did recover and returned to the regiment in 1864 whereupon he was elected lieutenant. Captured at Bentonville, North Carolina, in March 1865, Duckett was imprisoned at Johnson’s Island during the final days of the war. He returned home to Laurens that summer, having survived the war and many close calls.  

After the war, Duckett prospered in Laurens County. He served two terms as County Sheriff from 1901 to 1908 and was a member of Camp Garlington of the South Carolina Chapter of the United Confederate Veterans.  In 1913, he accompanied other veterans of the Palmetto State to Gettysburg to partake in the Great Reunion, held during the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and packed within his luggage was his worn hat- possibly the only relic he kept from the war. On it he painted a small Confederate battle flag with his name and the battle where a Yankee bullet ripped through the crown of his hat- one that a few inches lower would have taken his life.

If only these relics could talk; but then this photograph of Duckett, seated, with his old, worn hat perched on his head, speaks a thousand words. A life lived to the fullest. A proud southerner who survived not only the disease of camp life and danger of the battlefield, but lived long enough to see old enemies come together as comrades at Gettysburg in 1913.

-John Heiser

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12 Responses to Sergeant Duckett’s Hat

  1. Tom Danninger says:

    Very cool. Is it known if the hat still exists in a collection somewhere?

  2. Craig Caba says:

    Excellent research and story — Thank you John!

    G. Craig Caba

  3. steven1863 says:

    I am always fascinated by these images and stories. Can you imagine how many untold others are contained in attics, basements and barns that we will never know? Thanks for sharing Mr. Duckett’s image and story.

    - Steven J. Pacholyk

  4. Jim Duckett says:

    Yes , Sgt TJ Duckett’s hat survives and is currently at The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond,VA. We just saw it last week.
    Jim Duckett

  5. Nancy Narcissa Pierce Little says:

    Love the article and the picture of my great-great grandfather. From family stories I understand he was quite a spunky gentleman – must have been – he was married three times!

    • I also am his great-great-granddaughter. And not only did he have three wives, but his first wife died and left him with five daughters, ages three to 15, and his third wife also had a daughter, but he never had sons. I’m sure he got his fill of the testosterone action during the war. Best to my cousins!

  6. Sgt. Duckett’s hat and photograph are on display at MOC-Appomaottox now through spring 2015, as part of the new exhibit, “”When Johnny Came Marching Home: Veterans in the Post-War South”.

  7. RobbieAnn Lawson says:

    Thank you all for the wonderful information. I have just starting tracing my family tree. Sgt. Thomas Duckett was my ggg uncle. I would love to hear any stories and or pictures of him.
    Thank you again.

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